Seductive Danger – Wendy Vella

K ate Sinclair burrowed deeper into her thick scarf as she took the track down the cliff to the beach below. It was steep and winding, but she’d walked it before with her cousins. Wind howled, and sea spray dabbled her face the lower she got. Gulls cried, the sound catching on the wind as they swooped and dived for food. It was close to dawn, and she’d been unable to sleep. Had felt a desperate need to walk, but not only that, she must walk on the beach below the cliffs. Kate hadn’t fought that need, simply left the house silently so as not to wake her family and headed here. Crunston Cliff lay behind her, as did Oak’s Knoll, her cousins’ home. Reaching the bottom, she jumped the last few feet and settled on the hard-packed sand. The tide was rising, so her walk would be brief. “Come on, Myrtle, let’s go!” Picking up her skirts, she sped along the beach with the shaggy hound bounding at her side. Her cousin’s dog had greeted her with a sleepy wag. Clearly, she too was restless. Slowing when her breaths became rasps, Kate turned to look at the castle on the hill. Raven Castle.

Her cousin Eden Sinclair had married the current duke, James, and they were up there, likely still sleeping, with some of the other members of Kate’s family. Her mother for one, and her elder sister, Alice, and the man she was to marry on Christmas Day, Nicholas, Lord Braithwaite. It wasn’t to be a grand event, neither of them had wanted that, but it would be lovely, and Kate was excited for her sister… not exactly true, as the small mean part of her didn’t want to be left alone with only her mother for company. It was extremely vexing to Kate that a woman who had held her family together for many years after her husband’s death now moaned at any given moment. On the carriage trip, which had taken four extremely long and taxing days, her mother had moaned extensively over everything. “My feet will never thaw out, Kate. I am hungry. It’s cold. I can’t sleep.” The list had gone on and on, and it had given her a small window into what her life was going to be like going forward.

No more Alice to share the burden, and definitely no Wolf. Their brother was also married, and likely still sleeping in the castle with his wife, Rose. They were expecting their first child soon. Harriet Sinclair was not a small woman. Short, yes, but ample of girth, so travelling was not comfortable for her, Kate acknowledged that, but still, the moaning had been constant. Picking up a stick, she threw it for Myrtle. Then watched as she flew across the sand to retrieve it. An approaching wave crept toward her, forcing Kate to retreat to the cliff face. Making her way along the edge, she headed for the path up. The water had risen faster than she’d realized.

“Myrtle, come here!” A muffled sound came from the jut of rocks behind her. Stopping, Kate listened and heard it again. A moan, or was it a growl? Was an animal hurt or trapped? Looking at the water, she wondered if she dared take the time to investigate, and yet how could she not? Kate was a healer now; her cousin had taught her, and because of what she and her family shared it was her destiny. She could not turn her back on anyone or anything that was wounded. “Myrtle.” She slapped her side for the dog to come, then gripped her collar. If it was a wounded animal, she didn’t want her to harm it further. Tension gripped Kate suddenly. It made her stomach clench and the hand on Myrtle’s collar tighten. The desperation she’d felt earlier rose inside her again.

Desperation that had her hurrying now. Almost at a run, she rounded the rocks and saw… nothing. Moving deeper into the crevice, she searched, and it was there she found him. Feet and hands bound, he was gagged and lay on his side facing her. Running forward, she stopped as the large, shaggy gray dog at his side rose. Prowling toward her, he growled, baring his teeth. “It’s all right now.” Gripping Myrtle’s collar as she growled back, she held out a hand. “I want to help him.” The man made a muffled sound as the dog moved slowly forward to sniff her fingers.

It then backed away to take its place beside the man and allowed Kate to drop down beside him. With trembling hands, she untied the gag. “Th-thank you.” He was shivering so hard, his teeth were banging together. How long had he been out here in the cold? He wore a black wool coat, trousers, and boots. He was big, with huge hands and feet; his shoulders were broad and chest wide. He had a mass of golden-brown hair that was dusted with sand. “The tide is rising; we must get you out of here.” “Kn-knife,” he gritted out. “Left boot.

” Kate didn’t allow herself time to think, just slipped her hand inside the boot and gripped the cold handle of the weapon. “W-will you hurt me if I free you?” The words tumbled from her mouth even as she began to use the knife on the binds at his feet. Was he a bad man? Had he been bound and left here because of a heinous crime? Not that any person should suffer such a fate, but still, he could harm her. “N-no. You have my word.” The shivers were violent now. Kate had to get him out of here and warm. She shot him a look; those golden eyes were focused on her. Kate could not walk away from him, so she had to trust him. “Your dog?” “Br-Bran, stay.

” The dog settled on its belly. “Sit, Myrtle.” She felt the dog crouch at her side. Kate released his ankles, then went to his hands and did the same. “Are you hurt at all, sir?” “My sh-shoulder,” he grunted as he struggled to sit. Kate was surrounded by large men in her family, but this one would rival them for size, she thought, helping him. “The water,” he said, “it is rising.” Kate looked down to see that was indeed true, as the tide was now trickling over her boots. “Come, we must get you to your feet.” His moan was long and loud as, with her help, they got him upright.

“Let me look at your shoulder.” Kate started to undo his coat buttons. “N-no, we must—” “Yes!” She slapped his hands aside. His shirt was soaked in blood. Unbuttoning it, she found a hole in his shoulder that was still bleeding sluggishly. “Dear lord, you’ve been shot!” He didn’t speak, just clenched his teeth together to stop them from chattering. Kate shivered herself as another wave of water reached her boots, higher this time. She then took the knife back out of his boot and turned her back on the man. Unbuttoning her coat, she bent to slice a length of material from the bottom of her dress, then her chemise. Fashioning a pad, she pressed it to the wound.

He snapped his teeth together to stop another moan. Kate then bound it as best she could before rebuttoning his shirt and coat. He stood still and silent, those golden eyes watching her the entire time. “Y-you n-need to run, I’m t-too slow. The tide.” Kate studied his face; his skin was pale, and a sheen of sweat covered him. Whoever had done this to him had to have known the water would cover him eventually. That someone would want another to die in such a manner made her shudder. “G-go now.” He grabbed her arm, turned her away from him.

“I-I will f-follow.” “And likely faint. No, we will go together.” “M-men don’t faint,” he managed to grit out. His pride at least was still intact. “I’m sure they do, however now is not the time to debate that. Come along.” Kate lifted his good arm and pressed herself to his side. “Walk,” she ordered him. Deep shudders wracked his chilled body.

Shock and blood loss, Kate knew, could kill a person. Essie had told her that. He would likely pass out soon. She had to get him to higher ground before he did. “Bran, Myrtle,” she said, and both dogs began to move at their side. The progress was slow, as they rounded the rock. “W-Water, too fast, g-go now.” The effort of walking took its toll, his breath rasped in and out of his mouth in harsh pants. “You must g-go!” Kate ignored him and decided she had to try and call her family. “Forgive me for yelling in your ear, but it must be done.

” Throwing back her head, she then screamed “Help!” as loud as she could. “The wind and s-sea,” he managed to get out. “N-no one will hear.” “They’ll hear.” Their progress was slow, but she kept him moving, ordering him to walk. “You must g-go on.” The tide was now at her calves, the icy water filling her boots and making her shiver. “You’ll fr-freeze out here.” “I’m not leaving you, so stop talking and put your energy into walking.” “You must!” He grabbed her with surprising strength, tugging her from under his arm, pulling her before him so he could grab her shoulders.

“I am weak, the b-blood loss.” He stopped to haul in a deep breath. “Leave me now, and t-take my dog.” Something passed between them as they looked at each other. A feeling that Kate could not describe; connection, yes, but this was more. “I’m not leaving you,” she said softly. “I-I…. Who are you?” “Please, we must leave here, you must try.” Kate was desperate now to get him to safety. His eyes ran over her face once more, and she felt everywhere they landed.

“One t-taste,” he whispered, lowering his head. “I-I must.” It was brief and fleeting, the touch of his ice-cold lips to hers, and then he was forcing her away from him. “No!” Kate grabbed him as he tried to evade her. “I will stay here with you and drown if that is your wish!” “N-No.” He tried to push her from his side as she lifted his arm again, but Kate grabbed his waist. “Yes. We must just reach the path up to the cliff.” Kate pointed ahead. The distance was not great, but the effort would cost him.

There we will be safe. You must try, if not for yourself, then for me.” He didn’t speak, just walked, slowly putting one foot in front of the other. She took some of his weight but knew it was not much. The dogs kept pace beside them. By the time they’d reached the path, the water made it hard going, but Kate knew only relief that they were finally safe. “Up now, just a few steps, sir, and you can stop for a rest.” “R-Rory,” he gritted out. “And I am Kate.” “You first.

” “No, you go first, and I shall attempt to help you from behind.” “S-stubborn.” “So my brother is constantly telling me.” It took a few attempts, as his fingers were cold and couldn’t grip anything, plus he was using only one hand. Finally he managed to pull himself up and onto the step above. For now, he was safe. Kate followed, and soon they would be here… please, God, let her family arrive soon.

.

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